Saturday, October 14, 2006
by Dahr Jamail
"655,000 Iraqis killed as a result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
I have worked for eight months in Iraq as a journalist, witnessing the carnage on a daily basis, visiting the morgues with bodies and body parts piled into them, meeting family after family who had lost a loved one, or more ... Finally, we get an accurate figure that shows how immense the scale of the long drawn carnage really is.
The first Lancet Report, published on October 29, 2004, reported that there were 100,000 "excess" Iraqi deaths as the result of the US invasion and occupation. (Excess deaths are the difference between pre-invasion and post-invasion mortality rates.) Whenever I have given public presentations about the occupation, I have invariably found myself in a difficult position due to the lack of a more realistic and recent figure I can cite, knowing full well that the number was grossly higher than 100,000.
The least I could do was mention that Les Roberts, one of the authors of that report, is known to have said this past February that the number of Iraqi casualties could be over 300,000. And now, we know it is far higher, which merely confirms what most Iraqis already know.
This study is the only one, other than the first study published in The Lancet, that calculates mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. It is a technique of "cluster sampling" also used to estimate mortality caused by famines and after natural disasters.
The controversial results of the first survey were backed by Bradley Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education on January 27, 2005: "Les [Les Roberts, co-author of the first survey] has used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology ... Indeed, the United Nations and the State Department have cited mortality numbers compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact – and have acted on those results. [He] has studied mortality caused by war since 1992, having done surveys in locations including Bosnia, Congo, and Rwanda. His three surveys in Congo for the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental humanitarian organization, in which he used methods akin to those of his Iraq study, received a great deal of attention. 'Tony Blair and Colin Powell have quoted those results time and time again without any question as to the precision or validity,' he added."
Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for several years, said that the survey method is "tried and true," and that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have." His view was backed by Sarah Leah Whitson at the Human Rights Watch in New York, who testified, "We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy."
Most of what we have heard reported, prior to this survey, had been deaths in Baghdad, with headlines like "50 Bodies Found in Baghdad" and "Baghdad Morgue Reporting 100 Bodies per Day." They are stories that have failed to take into account the rest of the country, although Baghdad is roughly 20% of the total population of Iraq. What has been happening in the rest of the country is a question that the latest survey answers: that there are approximately 500 unexpected violent deaths every single day throughout Iraq.
The survey found that 87% of the deaths had occurred during the occupation rather than during the initial invasion, and that 31% of them were a consequence of attacks and air strikes by the coalition forces.
For over a year now many Iraqis have been referring to what is happening in their country as genocide. With over 500 Iraqis being killed every single day as a direct result of the occupation, it is difficult to argue with them."